A Chinese national serving a 15-year prison sentence in Namibia for smuggling rhinoceros horns has escaped, authorities in the Southwest African nation said. The escapee, identified as Wang Hui, was an inmate at the Windhoek Correctional Facility, VOA reported.
Hui was convicted after he was found guilty of illegally exporting controlled wildlife products. Authorities arrested the Chinese national and three of his compatriots at the Hosea Kutako Airport in 2014 after they found rhino horns and leopard skin in their possession. The wildlife products were said to be valued at millions on the black market.
The four men were subsequently convicted in 2016.
Michael Mulisa, who is the public relations officer at the Department of Correctional Services, provided details about Hui’s escape. He said the convicted Chinese national absconded after he was taken outside the prison for a work assignment.
“On the said day the escapee was part of a team of offenders from the Windhoek Correctional Facility industrial workshop taken outside the facility to load material from a supplier in [at] Brakwater mix informal settlement,” said Mulisa. “These materials are being used to partition or convert some rooms into offices at the Windhoek Central Hospital.
“It is alleged that the escapee was permitted by an officer guarding him to use a toilet and subsequently sneaked out from the toilet without being detected. Police officers are on the hunt for the escapee,” he added.
The poaching and smuggling of rhino horn are said to be prevalent in Namibia. The country’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism has reported 48 rhino poaching cases over the past 10 months. The country recorded 43 such cases last year while 40 were recorded in 2020.